Consider Avon, and the picture that arises is likely a beautiful, healthy one – an Avon woman, or maybe an Avon man, introducing their make-up products in an enjoyably tidied up lounge.
It’s probably black and white in your head as well.
However, the times are changing.
As a direct seller, the cosmetics company created a name for itself throughout the world, uniting millions of entrepreneurs under the Avon brand.
So you could be forgiven for believing that a worldwide epidemic is a thorn in the (cheap) side.
According to CEO Angela Cretu, this is not the case.
It was, in reality, a chance to accelerate a digital transition.
“We transformed the business strategy from a ding-dong direct selling approach to a digitally powered beauty brand at breakneck speed. We’ve seen a remarkable transition in the way we engage with our employees throughout the world in the last year – so sure, it’s been tough, but it’s also been a terrific learning experience,” she says.
Still a big player
Any company with 55 sales channels and distribution in another 25 is a large enterprise.
Even amid a Covid-19 epidemic, $4 billion in revenue is nothing to sneeze at.
On the other hand, Angela is most enthusiastic about – and says she has a responsibility to – the millions of representatives.
“We want to provide them the chance to work and study, knowing that financial independence, as well as access to knowledge and education, is critical to building a self-sufficient life.”
Part of that process entails arming the modern-day Avon Lady (and Man) with the digital tools they need to engage with their consumers – especially in the wake of a worldwide epidemic, according to Cretu, which wiped off “high-touch” ties.
“Our reps enjoyed it after we tested these new ways to communicate with customers,” she says.
“We expedited the speed of developing additional digital tools for them, and applications that are now live in all of our markets enable them to distribute brochures over Whatsapp, publish content via social media, and manage and expand their enterprises from their mobile.”
According to Cretu, reps are already combining digital interaction with human relationship-building in a hybrid fashion, as constraints have eased in various parts of the world.
Perhaps the rest of the globe will soon follow Avon’s lead.
Innovate to thrive
Cretu’s inventiveness extends throughout its product line.
Avon has made significant investments in research and development in recent years, and Cretu is particularly proud of a new skincare recipe that earned the company an Edison award.
She does, however, believe that Avon has to be more innovative in its marketing and what it does as a company.
“Everyone wants a personalized relationship with a business that understands my specific needs,” she adds.
That should be an advantage for a company like Avon, which has spent years cultivating long-term client connections, but Cretu recognizes that is no longer adequate.
Customers “also want to cooperate with those firms to give back to their communities in ways that go beyond what they get from them.”
“For genuine, not merely to create a TV public relations campaign.”
Avon’s philanthropic activities, including more than $800 million in funding to battle female malignancies since 1992, are cited by Cretu as proof that the company understands.
In any case, Cretu talks a pretty current game for a company that was presumably in desperate need of a makeover. If it succeeds, only time will tell.